The No. 1-ranked men’s professional tennis player, Novak Djokovic, and the No. 1-ranked women’s professional golfer, Yani Tseng, were named the United States Sports Academy’s September Athletes of the Month.
Both Djokovic and Tseng are arguably the two most dominating athletes in their sports this year.
Serbian Djokovic beat Spainard Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-1 to earn the first U.S. Open championship of his career and his third Grand Slam title in 2011. The 24-year-old Djokovic overpowered Nadal in the fourth set to improve his record to a remarkable 64-2 this season. Djokovic’s has lost only one full match, which came when he was beaten by Roger Federer in the French Open semifinals.
Tseng, the 22-year-old from Taiwan, has also racked up tournament championships, winning five LPGA titles, including two majors, and three international events. In September, Tseng won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in a one-hole, sudden-death playoff over Amy Yang. Tseng shot 12-under for the tournament, scoring 66-67-68 for a 201 total at the Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Ark.
The public is invited to participate in the worldwide Athlete of the Month nomination and ballot voting processes. Visit the Academy website at www.ussa.edu to submit your nominations each month, and then return to the website between the first and second Tuesdays of each month to vote on the Athlete of the Month. The votes along with the Academy’s selection committee choose the winners and they are announced on the Academy’s website and in the online edition of The Sport Update.
Finishing second in the male athlete category was New York Yankee relief pitcher Mariano Rivera. The 41-year-old Rivera, who was born in Panama, broke the Major League Baseball record for most career saves. Rivera recorded save No. 602 for the record and finished the regular season with 603 saves. The 16-year Yankees veteran recorded 44 saves on the year, which was the second most in the American League.
The runner up to Tseng in the Female September Athlete of the Month voting was another professional golfer, Lexi Thompson. At the age of 16 years, 7 months and 8 days, she became the youngest player to win an LPGA tournament. The high school junior closed with a 2-under-par 70 to polish off a five stroke victory in the Navistar LPGA Classic in Prattville, Ala. Previously, the age record for winning a multiple-round tournament was held by Paula Creamer, who won in 2005 at age 18.
Third place winners were Cam Newton, a National Football League player for the Carolina Panthers who had the best passing performance in a debut game by a rookie in NFL history with 422 yards; and Samantha Stosur, an Australian who won her first major women’s tennis title of her career by beating Serena Williams, 6-2, 6-3, in the U.S. Open.
The winners will be considered as a candidate for the 2011 Athlete of the Year ballot. In December 2011, the Academy will name the Male and Female Athletes of the Year for the 27th consecutive year. The recipients of these prestigious awards are selected annually through worldwide balloting hosted by the Academy in conjunction with USA Today and NBC Sports.
In 2010, the Male Athlete of the Year was Spain’s star football (soccer) player David Villa and the Female Athlete of the Year was South Korea’s No. 1 figure skater Yuna Kim. Both of these individuals dominated 2010’s ballot, receiving more than 12 votes per second from across the world.